Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 485–495 | Cite as

Increased Intrasubject Variability in Boys with ADHD Across Tests of Motor and Cognitive Control

  • Keri Shiels Rosch
  • Benjamin Dirlikov
  • Stewart H. Mostofsky


Increased intrasubject variability (ISV), or short-term, within-person fluctuations in behavioral performance is consistently found in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is also associated with impairments in motor control, particularly in boys. The results of the few studies that have examined variability in self-generated motor output in children with ADHD have been inconsistent. The current study examined variability in motor control during a finger sequencing task among boys with and without ADHD as well as the relationship between intrasubject variability during motor and cognitive control tasks. Changes in performance over the course of the task and associations with ADHD symptom domains were also examined to elucidate the nature of impaired motor control in children with ADHD. Fifty-one boys (ages 8 to 12 years) participated in the study, including 28 boys with ADHD and 23 typically developing (TD) boys. Participants completed a finger sequencing task and a Go/No-Go task providing multiple measures of response speed and variability. Boys with ADHD were slower and more variable in both intertap interval on the finger sequencing task and reaction time on the Go/No-Go task, with measures of speed and variability correlated across the two tasks. For the entire cohort, the only unique predictor of parent ratings of hyperactive-impulsive symptoms was variability in intertap interval during finger sequencing, whereas inattentive symptoms were only predicted by reaction time variability on the Go/No-Go task. These findings suggest that inefficient motor control is implicated in the pathophysiology of ADHD, particularly in regards to developmentally inappropriate levels of hyperactivity and impulsivity.


Intrasubject variability Motor Cognitive control Reaction time ADHD 



This research was supported in part by NIH grants R01 MH078160 and R01 MH085328 and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (NIH/National Center for Research Resources Clinical and Translational Science Award program, UL1 RR025005).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keri Shiels Rosch
    • 1
  • Benjamin Dirlikov
    • 1
  • Stewart H. Mostofsky
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratory for Neurocognitive and Imaging ResearchKennedy Krieger InstituteBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Neurology and PsychiatryJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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